The Ouray Plaindealer
An Ouray woman who had been repeatedly warned about feeding bears at her home was found dead and partially eaten by a bear on Friday, Aug. 7, according to the Ouray County coroner.
Ouray County deputies responded to the scene after a visitor to the house observed the woman’s body outside the home. Deputies found evidence at the scene that suggested that a bear or bears had consumed portions of the body.
The victim has been identified as Donna Munson, 74, the owner and resident of the house.
Ouray County Sheriff Junior Mattivi said Tuesday the coroner’s report confirms that Munson was killed by a black bear.
“All of the wounds, claw marks and bites, were consistent with a bear attack,” said Mattivi. “From what they could tell, it (Munson’s death) happened pretty quick, probably from loss of blood.” He said there is no indication that Munson died prior to the attack.
Mattivi said he has not received a copy yet of the official report. Until then he prefer not to disclose specific details on the location of Munson’s mortal wounds. The information he has came from talking with Ouray County Coroner Gary Miller.
Munson lived in the Ponderosa subdivision, about midway between Ouray and Ridgway near U.S. 550. Munson’s body was discovered early in the afternoon of Aug. 7, outside her residence on Whitehouse Vista Lane.
Responding deputies and emergency medical personnel found evidence that suggested that a bear or bears had consumed portions of Munson’s body. As deputies were investigating the scene, they were approached by a large bear that exhibited aggressive behavior. Deputies shot and killed it.
Another large bear was killed Friday night at the residence by agents of the Wildlife Services branch of the U.S Department of Agriculture working under the authority of the Colorado Division of Wildlife (DOW).
Mattivi also said Tuesday that a necropsy was done on both animals in Grand Junction; stomach content samples from one were sent to a laboratory in Wyoming for analysis.
Soon after last Friday’s incident, the DOW reported that its officers have investigated residents at the home for intentionally feeding bears for more than 10 years. Last year, the DOW sent a written notice to Munson and renters at her home warning of the dangers of feeding bears and laying out potential legal penalties if evidence of feeding was discovered. Officers had visited the home dozens of times over the past decade to investigate reported feeding, but officers were met with no cooperation. Efforts to trap nuisance bears on the property were rejected numerous times.
But in early July a caretaker at the residence, concerned about safety, asked DOW officers to place traps on the property to address problems with aggressive bears. On the first day that traps were placed, two bears were trapped and euthanized.
Munson’s cabin borders federal land. A metal fence had been constructed to cover her porch so she could continue feeding wild animals in the area.
Munson’s daughter, Melanie Allum-Mine, said her mother was handicapped and could not go up or down stairs. Allum-Mine was at the scene Monday afternoon, where Munson’s walker was found cast aside and blood stains are visible at the spot where she fell. Allum-Mine also found her mother's bracelet, apparently overlooked at the scene. Clutching a rifle in one hand, she picked the bracelet up with the other and turned away in an effort to hold back tears.
“All of this started in 2001 with an orphaned baby bear,” Allum-Mine said.
“Mother started feeding it and it grew up, eventually coming back with two babies the next year. Mother was very stubborn; she wanted to save wildlife from man's encroachment.”
Allum-Mine added that skunks, raccoons, homeless dogs and cats and a wounded elk were fed by her mother and her late husband “Ridgway Jack” Munson. He died about 14 years ago. After the drought of 2002, more bears appeared for the dog and cat food given to them by Munson.
DOW officials remind residents that bears that become habituated to human food are dangerous. The DOW has used an aggressive public education campaign to explain to people for many years that "a fed bear is a dead bear."
Education efforts and regulations have been utilized to highlight the risk of bear feeding — not just to the people who feed wild animals but to the animals that are fed and must be put down as a result. Four bears from the area near Munson’s home have been killed or euthanized since July. Since the DOW started tracking bear-human encounters in the 1960s, there have been two other fatalities: one in Grand County in 1971 and one in Fremont County in 1993.
Mattivi likewise urged caution to area residents. “We have a lot of bears. Don’t feed them,” he said. “If you see a bear, try to make as much noise as possible. If you are out hiking, never confront or threaten a bear; the bear is gong to win.”